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Predicting Demand during a Pandemic

Unlike last week, it’s -20 C with clear blue skies today. The visibility is perfect as far as the eye can see. With my eye on the horizon my thoughts have turned toward trying to assess and predict the demand for our coworking spaces over the coming months. Under normal circumstance this would be a relatively mathematical task.

Still living in code red and with inoculations not likely to impact the majority of Winnipeggers until the end of summer, the approach now resembles more of an exercise in psychology than math. I’m no psychologist (intro pych is the extent of my training) so I’m relying on my own perception of common sense.

Launch is currently home to over 200 members (from solopreneurs to multi-national corporations) who access our spaces to work, meet, and host events. The questions at the top of my mind are;

  1. When will we start see members at regular frequency again?
  2. When will we start to see signs of future member growth again?
  3. Who will be driving the demand?

Seeing our members with regular frequency seems entirely tied to the guidance and restrictions implemented by health authorities. Despite exceptions that enabled us to remain open during a code red health environment, the overwhelming majority of our members chose to work from home.

As the perceived and actual health risk lowers. The health authorities will gradually introduce new easing measures (maybe as early as next week). It seems rational to believe that people (who are both organizational leaders and employees) will feel empowered to venture out and reconnect in person. Once the eased measures have been sustained for consecutive weeks. My sense is that each person will make a choice that will be reflective of their own circumstances that dictate perceived risk and reward.

What’s completely unknown and uncertain is to what extend the majority will re-engage and over what period of time. Will we see a slow trickle of members or will a certain health announcement signal a repatriation of the in person work environment en-mass? Despite the desire to work and meet in person, I’m betting that the slow and steady return is the most likely scenario here in Winnipeg.

Future member inquiries are likely to follow a similar behavioural pattern to current members. Once people experience our creative and inspirational spaces that offer another dimension of remote work. That is when we’ll start to see the early signs of a recovery. The demand will start slowly with a few inquiries a week but will build through the summer and I foresee exponential growth by the fall.

I’ve read hundreds of musing and opinions about the return to the office and what that looks like in major markets. My sense for Winnipeg is that our growth is going to be driven by an organizational adoption of remote work and a rise in entrepreneurship. 

Your in Coworking,
Jason Abbott

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